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I am the owner of a 25 lb. pug. When we get snow here in the northeast United States, he loves to go out and play in the snow when we are shoveling the driveway, and even tries to start digging up the snow. However, since he is a short-hair dog, I try to monitor him closely and I get extremely worried that he will get too cold while we are outside, especially when the temperatures are extremely low.

What are the warning signs of hypothermia in dogs so I know when I absolutely need to get him inside ASAP?

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  • Showing signs of hypothermia means it is already well past the time he should have been let back in to warmth. Would you rather ask what signs to pay attention to for taking him indoors before he goes into hypothermia? Jan 4 '14 at 8:11
  • @EsaPaulasto I was in the fence with that one. I agree that it is well past the time, but I decided on this question because ultimately, this is the critical concern. "Too cold" ends up just being a subjective term as it could vary based on the individual. Jan 4 '14 at 8:20
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There are various stages of hypothermia to be aware of in terms of signs and sometimes improvement in a sign is an indication that the animal is getting worse, especially when talking about shivering. Early stages have shivering, it abates at later stages, so keeping an eye on your pet is critically important in this case.

Very young and very old animals are at greater risk as are smaller animals with less natural defence. For mild or moderate hypothermia, you can treat with active external warming such as warm blankets, warm moving air, and the like, though checking with a vet is advised for moderate hypothermia. For severe hypothermia, you must seek medical assistance from a vet, though starting the warming process by drying and covering them is important too.

Whatever you do, do not, however, put the dog into a warm water bath as it could kill them from the shock.

One thing you might want to do is find out how to take your dogs temperature, have your vet demonstrate it if possible. Knowing this will allow you to check, dogs should have a core body temperature around 101° - 102.5° so dropping below that indicates too cold (as a note, cats are similar and have the same warning signs).

Mild (95° - 99°)

  • Lethargic
  • Signs of weakness
  • Shivering (dogs and cats seldom shiver, pay attention for this sign especially)
  • Signs of confusion or agitation
  • Variable rate of breathing
  • Feels cold

Moderate (90° - 95°)

  • Collapse
  • Shivering abates
  • Appears to have stiff muscles
  • Shallow and slowed breathing

Severe (< 90°)

  • No shivering
  • Appears to have stiff muscles
  • Dilated pupils
  • Shallow and slowed breathing
  • May have coughing with signs of blood (sign of fluids in the lungs)

Main Sources (for additional reading if you want)

  1. The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats, Amy D Shojai
  2. Blackwell's Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline, 5th edition, Larry P. Tilley and Francis W.K. Smith, Jr.
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Unlike kids, I don't think (adult) dogs are in danger to get too cold, as long as they have the option to go inside.

Even puppies try to avoid cold. We got ours some years ago at the age of 12 weeks at the end of february, and the weather wasn't too cold then. We almost had him housebroken already, when end of march the winter came back and it had severe frost outside. Suddenly, he started again peeing in the house. Turned out he simply didn't want to go out in the bitter cold. Once spring broke trough, the problems were gone, and he started to show us again that he need to go out.

That being said, when the dog is quivering, I'd take him in.

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